Chief minister Nitish Kumar has consciously given his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi a miss in the past and could do so again during next month’s Hunkar rally.
As Patna readies to welcome the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate at Gandhi Maidan, the chief minister is believably planning to spend the last week of October with his party president, Sharad Yadav, party MPs, legislators and cadres at his favourite destination — Rajgir.
The BJP’s star campaigner is scheduled to address the party’s much-vaunted Hunkar Rally on October 27.
The saffron cadres are pulling out all stops to ensure the grand success of what observers see as the party’s effort to present Narendra Modi as a “bigger” hero than Nitish Kumar on his own soil.
JD(U) sources say Nitish might leave for the sylvan surroundings of Rajgir in his home district of Nalanda, a day before the Hunkar rally, to attend his party’s two-day chintan shivir (contemplation camp) beginning October 28.
“The chintan shivir will be a culmination of the party’s block and district level organisation meetings that are currently under way.
“Far removed from what the BJP is doing, we have planned a party workers’ conclave at Rajgir where our top leaders, Nitishji and Sharadji, will give shape to our electoral strategies for the Lok Sabha elections in 2014,” JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan said.
But this is not a new strategy Nitish is adopting to avoid his rival. Every time his opponents organised a big event in Patna in the past, the Bihar chief minister chose to stay away from Patna by either convening a party meeting or going on a yatra. And he made it a point not to react to the rivals’ event.
Take, for instance January 19, 2010, an election year in Bihar. Then JD(U) dissident and now RJD MP from Maharajganj, Prabhunath Singh, had organised a huge demonstration in Patna against Nitish’s “apathy” towards the upper caste Rajputs.
Two days before the Rajput strongman’s show of strength, Nitish left Patna to spend four days in the Rajput strongholds of Vaishali and Sonepur.
A few days later, arch-rival Lalu Prasad called a Bihar bandh on January 28. Once again, Nitish left Patna to wander around Nalanda and Rajgir.
True to his style, Nitish uttered not a word against either Prabhunath’s dissident activities in the party nor the shutdown Lalu called.
Throughout 2010, at the end of which the JD(U)-led alliance under Nitish won a second term in office, he kept giving programmes organised by Lalu and other opponents in Bihar a miss.
“By avoiding to stay in Patna on the day of the Hunkar rally next month, Nitish will once again carry out a strategy he has adopted against Narendra Modi who, arguably, is going to be the BJP’s star campaigner in Bihar after the JD(U)-BJP alliance broke up,” remarked a JD(U) insider.
During the chief ministers’ meet in New Delhi in June, the Bihar and Gujarat chief ministers were under the same roof but steered clear of each other. The two did not even acknowledge each other. In 2010, Nitish had called off a dinner for NDA leaders over some posters that showed Nitish and Modi holding hands.
January 10, 2010
Occasion: JD(U) dissident and now RJD MP from Maharajganj, Prabhunath Singh, was organising a demonstration in Patna to attack Nitish for alleged apathy towards Rajputs
What Nitish did: Two days ahead of Prabhunath’s show of strength, he left Patna and spent four days in Rajput strongholds of Vaishali and Sonepur. Did not utter a
word on Prabhunath
January 28, 2010
Occasion: Lalu Prasad called Bihar bandh
What Nitish did: Moved around Nalanda and
Rajgir. Did not utter a word on Lalu
November 4, 21012
Occasion: BJP leader Kailashpati Mishra
died during Nitish’s Adhikar rally. Narendra
Modi arrived to pay his last respects to Mishra
What Nitish did: To avoid coming face to face with Modi, Nitish paid his respects to the deceased BJP leader, Mishra, at the Ganga Ghat and not at his house where the Gujarat chief minister had come to condole the leader